Cruising with Crystal

Last week Charles and I taught cooking and wine classes aboard the Crystal Serenity on a 12 day cruise around the Eastern Mediterranean.  This magnificent cruise ship, which has often been named the best in the world, has everything you could want — great accommodations,  activities, classes, entertainment, a spa, restaurants, bars and amazing food. I say the food was amazing because I read somewhere that during the course of one voyage, as many as 10,000 meals are served!  

It might be something as simple as an Asian Chicken Salad with peanuts and crunchy vegetables, or as complex as a perfect Grand Marnier Souffle (note the Grand Marnier being drizzled into the center) with Creme Anglaise.  Note to self:  must make this at home soon–it’s been too long and this is one great dessert!

Or a perfect Soup de Poisson, a smooth fish soup accented with saffron and served with Rouille, a roasted pepper and garlic sauce.  This soup was my favorite, but others, such as the Borscht, Wild Mushroom Cappuccino, and Consomme were all well prepared.  The ship even has its own branch of the Nobu chain of restaurants known as Silk Road where we were able to have sushi and other Asian inspired food.

Every day brought something new and different.  When we were in port, we had some great meals, too, like the lunch of meze, flavorful salads, spreads, pickles and dips, that we had in Jerusalem.  There were beet salads topped with herb dressing, roasted fennel in a creamy dill sauce, eggplant and tomato salad, yogurt and cucumber salad, and roasted sweet potatoes with pesto.  The hummus was the best I have ever eaten — light, fluffy, creamy and really irresistible.

You will find versions of meze served all over the Mediterranean. In Greece we had a similar lunch which featured something I have never eaten before:  pickled caper vines, the actual branches that capers grow on.  Proceed with caution here — they were thorny and rather tough — but I had to try them.  The next photo is a meze plate we were served in Turkey.  There was an egg salad with herbs and shredded carrots, a spicy onion and tomato spread, stuffed vine leaves, eggplant salad, boiled greens and pickled vegetables.

Also in Turkey, I was fascinated by the food carts.  Here’s one selling fresh squeezed juices.  Charles had to stop and get himself a glass of pomegranate juice.  Sweet and tart, it was very refreshing.

As we approached Topkapi Palace for some sightseeing, we came across a man selling fresh mussels which he opened and served with just a squeeze of lemon.

Nearby was the kebab maker, grilling meats to serve with tomatoes and peppers on fresh pide bread.  A wise idea to get fortified before confronting the mind-boggling splendors of the palace, like the amazing Topkapi diamond.  The size of a large egg, it’s origins are mysterious, though one story has it found by a poor man on a rubbish pile!

I was especially glad to see Turkish kids (and adults, too) enjoying healthy snacks like roasted corn on the cob and roasted chestnuts.  Just the thing for a chilly day.

We also stopped at Santorini, Mykonos, Crete, Ephesus and Cyprus.  It was a great itinerary and there were so many things to taste and see, so many warm and friendly people to meet, it was truly an unforgettable experience.  I’d like to write more and show you some more pictures, but right now it’s time to get to work and write down some of those delicious recipes I tasted so that I can share them with you soon.



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    • Michele Scicolone